THE CANDLE DRAWER
My grandmother used to open hers every morning.
It was stoked as by an unseen hand.
My mother opened hers in emergencies,
kept the supply in back. In front were: coasters;
embroidered linen napkins, yellowing;
blackening silver once-loved napkin rings;
and dog-eared playing cards. I’d see her buying
candles once a year, when we’d run out.
The last time I lit one the air got smoky,
the alarm blew. But I’ve been collecting candles
in the front of every drawer for years. So you
can place a dozen dozen on all sides—
the black ones on my left, and on my right
the white, with multicoloreds at my head
and feet as well as interspersed throughout—
and light them, so that as I go you might
see me, unheralded, join the rising smoke.
Make sure to unplug the smoke alarm, though, first,
so that all of us might rest awhile in peace
before we go for good. And when we’re gone,
I hope that you’ll remember to keep candles
in a special single drawer, or strewn in several,
for the day of sudden darkness on which you
and yours will need such upward-rising light.
James B. Nicola, a returning contributor, is the author of six collections of poetry: Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019), and Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense (2021). His decades of working in the theater culminated in the nonfiction book Playing the Audience: The Practical Guide to Live Performance, which won a Choice award.